Crime - Sacto 911

Man withdraws insanity plea in hit-and-run case

Jonathan Jackson’s bike lies on the road after the 17-year-old cyclist was struck by a car. Alamar Cyril Houston is accused of deliberately striking a group of cyclists.
Jonathan Jackson’s bike lies on the road after the 17-year-old cyclist was struck by a car. Alamar Cyril Houston is accused of deliberately striking a group of cyclists.

Alamar Cyril Houston abruptly withdrew his insanity plea a day after a Yolo Superior Court jury convicted him of felony hit-and-run, assault and other charges for ramming his stolen car into bicyclists last year, critically injuring a teenage rider.

A Jan. 6 sentencing was scheduled Friday for Houston, who faces 36 years in prison on four counts of assault with a deadly weapon with an enhancement, three counts of hit-and-run causing injury, two counts of vehicle theft, reckless evasion of a peace officer, evasion of a peace officer while driving the wrong way, assault and resisting arrest.

Houston, 39, was acquitted of three counts of attempted murder and drug charges in the June 30, 2015, incident along South River Road, a popular cycling route between Clarksburg and West Sacramento. Jurors spared Houston on those allegations and were sitting on the sanity phase of his trial when Houston pulled the plea Thursday, said Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven.

Houston, a felon with a long criminal history and string of prison stays for robbery and other crimes, told attorneys and Judge David Rosenberg of his decision behind closed doors Thursday during a recess at trial, Raven said.

Houston had entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity before his trial. He remains in Yolo County custody. Houston did not explain why he withdrew his plea, according to Raven.

Jurors deliberated Houston’s fate for six days before delivering their verdict Wednesday. He faced 19 charges for what prosecutors argued was a daylong, drug-fueled spree that included a high-speed dash in a stolen truck down Interstate 5 into Yolo County and the theft of a sport utility vehicle from an airport rental lot before the collision on South River Road.

Prosecutors say Houston shoved bicyclist Don Dumaine off the road from behind the wheel of the SUV before slamming the vehicle into Jonathan Jackson and Taariq Jensen, teenage cyclists training for an upcoming race.

Authorities said Houston later assaulted a clerk at a West Sacramento drugstore, punching the clerk in the face and stealing a case of water. A West Sacramento police officer spotted Houston in the SUV. He refused to pull over, prompting a high-speed chase into downtown Sacramento, where he abandoned the SUV. Houston ran but was captured after assaulting a police dog, Yolo County prosecutors said.

Jackson suffered injuries to his ankle. Jensen suffered a serious head injury and was airlifted to a hospital, where he was in a medically induced coma for several weeks.

Houston’s attorney, Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson, had argued that Houston was in the midst of a psychotic break, not under the influence of drugs, during the episode. Jurors appeared to agree, acquitting Houston of the attempted murder and drug-related charges in a Wednesday verdict met by the victims’ families with disappointment and disbelief.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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